Professional News
Plant Family Tree to See History of Mental Illness
Psychiatric News
Volume 44 Number 18 page 8-8

Ancestor research is a popular hobby among Americans these days. But few think about building a family tree as far as mental illnesses are concerned. Yet having such a family tree could help them better understand which mental illnesses, if any, tend to run in their families.

Thus, Families for Depression Awareness, a nonprofit organization helping families cope with depressive disorders, has developed a free online tool to help people build a family tree for depression and bipolar disorder. It is called the Mental Health Family Tree. An individual can use the tool to build the tree online and then print out a hard copy or to print out a blank form of the tree and then inscribe information on it by hand.

When patients share their mental health family trees with their clinicians, the clinicians may be able to more quickly and more accurately diagnose any mood disorders that they have. In fact, clinicians could ask patients to fill out a blank copy of the Mental Health Family Tree before arriving for an appointment or while waiting in their offices before an appointment.

"It's an interesting tool," Stephen Strakowski, M.D., chair of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati and a bipolar disorder authority, told Psychiatric News. "I ran a made-up subject through quickly, and it works fairly easily. There are some limitations—for example, it doesn't link second-degree relatives necessarily well—but it is nonetheless functional. Clinicians may find it useful."

The Mental Health Family Tree is posted at<www.MentalHealthFamilyTree.org>. The Web site for Families for Depression Awareness is<www.FamilyAware.org>.

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